Welcome to the world’s oldest unsolved Chinese puzzle. This little Book of Changes, which in it’s native Chinese will fit into less than forty pages, has been teasing and tormenting scholars for thousands of years, and translators for centuries. Over the centuries it has been consulted more than the Bible, the Koran or the Vedas and has been read more than Shakespeare or Homer. And yet it lays down no law. It founds no religion. It tells no story. So what is this odd, inscrutable tome all about?
The I Ching (now commonly known as the Yijing, just as Peking is now known as Bejing), is a system for understanding the place of humanity within the cosmos. It is a system built entirely upon two elements – yin and yang. Using these two elements, it creates the world and all within it. It does this by putting them together into 64 hexagrams, each one divided into 6 lines. It has an uncanny similarity to the structure of human DNA and fits perfectly with our understanding of chaos theory.
It is also a fundamental component of the Human Design System.
The I Ching is more than 3,000 years old. It’s origins are lost in the mists of antiquity, with fragments remaining from the Xia dynasty (2005 – 1766 BC) and the Shang dynasty (1766 – 1122 BC). The first written version comes from the Zhou dynasty in 1122 – 221 BC.
The Book of Changes is little known in the west, but it is one of the most important books in world literature. Thousands of years of wisdom have gone into it’s making and interpretation. It has had a profound influence on the culture, philosophy, science, politics and everyday life of China, the most populous nation in the world (1.2 billion people).
At the outset, the I Ching was a collection of linear signs used as an oracle. It was probably originally based on the simple possibility of receiving either a yes or no answer to a question.
Yes was a single unbroken line and No was a single broken line. As more complex answers were sought, it’s likely that people began to combine the lines into pairs, and then into sets of three. These became known as trigrams. The trigrams then began to take on meaning, based on hundreds of years of observation. The eight trigrams began to represent all the forces of heaven and earth.
But there was again a desire for more complex understanding of the world and the trigrams were combined to create hexagrams. Each hexagram contains the two trigrams in relationship with each other. They also contain the experience of the six lines that form them.
Around 1150 BC, King Wen and his son the Duke of Chou, began to change the way the I Ching was being used – shifting it from a method of fortune telling to a book of wisdom that gives answers to the question – what am I to do?
This had the effect of shifting the querent from a mute and passive receptor of fate into a co-creative partner actively involved in shaping her future.
Both Lao-Tse and Confucius knew the I Ching well, and added significantly to it’s inherited wisdom.
Consulting the I Ching
Traditionally a hexagram was created by throwing coins or yarrow stalks. Each throw gave either a yang (solid) or yin (unbroken) line and the six lines of the hexagram were built from the bottom up. If you’d like to know more about how to consult the I Ching in this way, Hilary Barrett’s site is a great resource.
In the Human Design System, the I Ching is a fundamental part of the BodyGraph, with each planet being allocated a hexagram (or “gate”) based on it’s astrological position. More on that later.
The Philosophy of the I Ching
The underlying philosophy of the I Ching is that of change. In the Tao Te Ching, Lao-tse teaches that rather than focus on individual things we are better served by considering the flow of change moving through each situation, the course of things, the continual primal beginning in each moment.
While we tend to equate yin with the feminine and yang with the masculine, Richard Wilhelm explains that there is nothing to indicate this in the original meanings. The primary meaning of the word ‘yin’ was probably something like cloudy or overcast. Yang probably meant something like ‘banners waving in the sun’, something bright and shone upon. The two words represented the concept of dark (yin) and light (yang), the southern or shaded side of a mountain (yin) and the northern or sunny side (yang), two primal states of being, continually transforming from one to the other and back again.
For example, in hexagram 3 we receive the guidance of how to respond to the process of initial creation, the rising up of vital energy. The imagery used is that of a sprouting seed. It can be useful when things are just beginning, to imagine ourselves as a sprouting seed, still deep within the dark cool earth, unsure of what we are becoming, confused by the teaming chaotic profusion of potential we are experiencing.
In the Human Design System, this hexagram (or gate) is in the Sacral Centre/Chakra, seeking to connect with the Root Centre by activating gate 60, Limitation. In this process of beginning and becoming, a birthing process, it’s likely that we’ll experience limitations, but that will help us grow strongly and surely. It also helps us to ‘weed out’ any ideas we have that are too weak to survive or are not in our best interests.
Using the I Ching in the Human Design System
Just like Shakespeare and the Bible, the I Ching has been interpreted many times by many thousands of people. While there are ancient and authentic roots to guide us in considering it’s meaning, we can also allow for it’s evolution as it grows to meet our changing needs for it’s ongoing guidance.
The Human Design System is a unique and profound tool for synthesizing the world’s great spiritual wisdoms – the I Ching, Kaballistic Tree of Life, the Chakra system and western Astrology – into a personal chart.
It’s time to complete our global becoming, time to integrate the spiritual journeys of all of humanity within each moment. In the Human Design Bodygraph, each chakra or Centre is home to a number of hexagrams or Gates. When we add in your planets, they activate specific Gates and Centres, creating your unique design.
In the design of John Lennon (see right), his Sun is in hexagram (Gate) 57. Gate 57 is always positioned in the Spleen Centre, which is the white triangle on the far left.
This lets us know that Lennon was attuned to subtle influences that others may not have been aware of. He was very sensitive physically (Spleen Centre) and couldn’t always express the impressions he was picking up because the energy isn’t connected to his Throat.
LiSe Heyboer describes this hexagram:
Accept your seal humbly and completely, do not try to understand, but open your intuition and believe in miracles. Your own attitude will attract all you need, you don’t have to use tools to find it. Least of all the tool of thinking, which is a tool of arrogance. You do not know anything, it knows you, if you are only you.
Richard Willhelm describes it this way:
In human life it is penetrating clarity of judgement that thwarts all dark hidden motives. In the life of the community it is the powerful influence of a great personality that uncovers and breaks up those intrigues which shun the light of day.
And in the Rave I Ching:
The possibility that the depth of the intuition will be treated superficially.
You can see the similarities within the differences of expression. The imagery of this hexagram is of wind blowing everywhere, penetrating everything, and also of wood (tree roots) slowly and imperceptibly growing deep into the earth, penetrating everything in their path.
We can synthesis the meaning of the hexagram by adding in the context of the planet, the chakra and their position in the Tree of Life. Without losing the shape of any one of these ancient spiritual philosophies we can allow them to inform each other, to synthesise our newly emerging global wisdom.
My favourite I Ching’s
You can find more links on Hilary Barrett’s site – www.onlineclarity.co.uk.
And here are two of my favourite I Ching books: